Friday, March 21, 2003

‘Lucky Leprechaun’s Lane’
I didn't have to look at the URL to suss that this site is not from Ireland. Why animated GIFs have the reputation they have today.

Happy equinox
Send me light, send me dreaming, send me the changing of the seasons
- Julia Macklin

The relevance of our religion - evangelical Protestant commentary
Foreword from Catholic priest: I think this is very thought-provoking. It is from a Q&A column in an
evangelical publication, but I think it is easily translatable to our
churches. It would be interesting to pass this out to a number of progressive
parish staffs and renewal ministries and see what the reaction would be.


I am frustrated with the traditional service at my church. It is filled with
people in their 50s and 60s and the service is dead and there is little
response. When I go from that service to our more contemporary service it is
like leaving a funeral home and entering an electric atmosphere. I've come to
dread the traditional service and increasingly see it as mere practice for
the "real" worshippers in the contemporary service. We've tried everything
from a worship band to a motivating song leader to get some life into that
funeral but we've failed. Any ideas?


You've got the right word: "funeral." Yep, that's the right word. If you want
to understand this age group, start with the word "funeral."

I'll address "funeral" later, but first let me point out that few people
really try to understand people in their 50s and 60s. Go look in your local
Christian bookstore or Christian college library and count the books on
youth, or generation X, or the millennial generation, or the emerging post
modern generation. You'll lose count. Then go searching for books to help
you understand and adapt ministry to people in their 50s and 60s and you'll
be able to count them on one hand--two at the most if you're in a great
Christian library. But even if they are there--nobody buys them or signs them
out. Face it, we are keen to discover the interests and preferences of the
emerging generations but have little interest in people over 50, even though
they comprise a significant component/majority of many congregations.

Well that's not completely true. The church is interested in this
generation's money. This is the generation expected to pick up the tab, or at
least lots of the tab. However the church is not interested in their
preferences or needs. They are overlooked except when it comes to paying the
bill. When people in their 50s and 60s express a preference they are often
told "this service is not for you--it is for others--don't be selfish."
Emerging generations are not told this, of course. Many older Christians are
taking this message seriously and have quit coming so regularly--in fact most
statistics show this is the most sporadically attending group in the church.
Why not? They've heard the message: "it isn't for you--pay the bill and be

They've seen lots of death and destruction. Perhaps these folk in your
contemporary service act like they are in a funeral because they are! Even
the externally cheerful ones carry a deep sense of grief. They are not new
gung-ho recruits fresh from boot camp--they've seen plenty of warfare and
plenty of dead bodies littering the battlefield of life. They grieve--so
perhaps your traditional service is mournful because they are grieving.
They've been through some of life's tough battles. They gotten wounded.
They've seen their compatriots fall. They know all about divorce--perhaps their
own or maybe their children's. It pains them. They know about fallen leaders
too--most have seen several "Great-men-of-vision" who captivated them with
preaching and personality yet they discovered later that all the time they
were leading these 'great leaders' were committing adultery or lying to the
congregation. They have been burned several times like this so they aren't
too quick to join the cheerleading staff for the next captivating
preacher-personality arriving on the scene.

They've done their share of giving. They've been through several "Not equal
giving but equal sacrifice" capital campaigns and they anted up their
sacrificial gifts to the church--gifts the present pastor knows nothing about
nor recognizes as anything but "that was your duty." Many feel their giving
was taken for granted or even wasted by their church through frivolous
decisions or indecision. Perhaps they committed sacrificially to the
church's "new vision" only to discover after they gave the money the church
changed their mind and spent it for something else. The "new vision" they
are hearing from you is the fifth one they've heard in their life so
far--from the seventh pastor they've had. They were excited when the first
Moses went up the mountain and got God's vision for them - then cast the
vision to the congregation. But by now they've had a dozen Moseses getting
different visions from God casting it their way - they are not quick to cheer
for every new 'Vision from God'. They have seldom been thanked for
giving other than a once-a-year computer generated receipt. They sometimes feel
used. Like a spouse who is taken for granted they are tempted to get
resentful. And all those promises about God taking care of them and
rewarding their generosity? How does that square with a stock portfolio that
just halved, a social security program that seems in trouble, and an economy
heading south at breakneck speed? They still believe it but losing half your
net worth is a few years might make help them be a bit melancholy don't you

They are wounded physically. They or their friend have had a hysterectomy, a
mastectomy, or double mastectomy or prostate cancer. They have a friend
right now going through chemotherapy. Their back hurts and they took pain
medicine before church today and standing longer than ten minutes brings
tears to their eyes--but they don't want to cave in and look decrepit and old
by sitting down. Their sex drive has gradually diminished over the years, in
fact they don't feel any sort of energy in any area like they once did. They
sleep less than ever, but they wake feeling weary. While they are not sleepy
they are tired.

They think about death and dying. Women have passed childbearing age, men
can't do push ups and knock the softball over the fence anymore. Every new
ache and pain suggests two funerals that they dread more than all the others
put together - their spouses and their own. Many in this generation actually
read the obituaries every day--they really do--every day. They often do it
secretly and tell nobody. There they see a friend's name from time to time
reminding them their generation is beginning to die off. They check the birth
dates of the rest comparing it with own birth date, keeping a mental
scoreboard on how many people die each week younger than them. Their own
demise looms. Their mother died recently, or father. Or perhaps worse, a
parent is still living and requires demanding care from them. They watch
their parent die slowly in a nursing home with few people or pastors from the
church ever visiting. They die forgotten. Here the see the ghost of
Christmas future -- a person who has given their whole life to the church--but
is now forgotten and dies in a lonely room with few visitors. Old people no
longer are viable contributors to the church. They wonder if this is their
own final exit--an ignoble dribbling away of life in loneliness with few
caring. The bell tolls for them.

They are wounded emotionally. Most of them have experienced at least one
violation of trust -- spouse, child, business partner, pastor -- probably more
than one. They were ripped off. They were violated They are
wounded. They've been told to be loving an forgiving of others (especially of the
younger generation who has run roughshod over their feelings) but they see no
reciprocal tolerance and forgiveness for their own shortcomings. They may
smile broadly, but they hurt deeply.

They've been burned. Burned by preachers and the church too--so they don't
respond with flag-waving enthusiasm to every new idea or new minister. Face
it, they've had a sequence of preachers tell them truths that later preachers
told them weren't true. Their life has been a series of hearing truth from
ministers which is later reversed by other ministers. They are tired of 'You
may have always thought... however...' style preaching. They are on their
fourth or fifth iteration of truth since young adulthood. They wonder if the first
one was right, or the second -- or even this one. What can they believe? Is
it any wonder that they seem so skeptical when a thirty-something pastor
delivers the latest truth as if he or she has discovered something the church
has totally been misunderstanding for decades?

They are disillusioned spiritually. This generation grew up singing 'Every
day with Jesus is Sweeter than the Day Before' and now they know it isn't.
There are days that are bitter and they no longer deny it. Many coupled
youthful idealism with spiritual goals and really thought they had the victory that overcomes the world. And now they see many battles, both in
themselves and in the broader arena of society that have been lost. They
haven't reached the holiness they expected would come with time and age. The
church is not a holier and better church in spite of what they were promised
by umpteen programs and campaigns. Many have experienced unanswered prayers
for decades ­for healing, salvation for their children, good spouses for
their kids. They believe but not with the effusive excitement they once did.

They are politically pessimistic. Growing up the sixties, they wanted to give peace a chance. They witnessed social protest bringing an end to
segregation and the war in Viet Nam. But with (official) segregation gone
they see racial prejudice lurking yet in every community, and even their own
hearts. Viet Nam ended but their life has been a series of little wars ever
since and the world is not that less dangerous. They suspect that their
generation is leaving the world in worse shape than when they got it -- and
inwardly blame themselves.

They sense regret. They've made mistakes. They had dreams they never
achieved. Every time you preach a relevant sermon on child-rearing they have
no chance of implementing it--they can sense regret they didn't do it right
back then, and hope they can make up some with grandchildren. They hurt
every day for their lost daughter, or son who has rejected the faith. They
wonder if they caused this by being too strict, or by being to lenient.
They've made mistakes. They past opportunities that may have made a brighter life
for them now if they'd grabbed them. They still mourn the sins of their
youth. They wish they could take back some of their decisions or actions but
they can't. They regret it.

They have doubt. With the shifting sands of truth some launch a desperate
attempt to believe something -- anything--some settle on one particular
iteration of the truth they've been told -- and younger pastors consider them
stuck-in-the-mud traditionalists for doing it. Many appear they have their
faith-act together, but they don't. They have doubts. Sometimes they wonder
if all they've lived their life for is even true. They ask, 'Have I wasted
my life?' They recite their beliefs automatically--but they aren't always
sure of them. They desperately want someone to preach on things that have
always been true and that are still true -- things people used to die for -- the
core thing, the essentials. They agree that Evolution is untrue yet they
watch the Discovery channel and quietly wonder to themselves if the church has
been wrong about that. Of course, you will seldom hear them express these
doubts--they are tucked deep within their souls. But doubt is their constant
companion. A thirty-something preacher whose gospel is mostly focused on
being delivered from lust or giving practical tips on child-rearing doesn't
help their doubts. In fact they are tired of sermons on change and hunger
for sermons on God. They are desperate to know what is certifiably true and
always has always been true. What can they bet their life on? What can they
die for, or at least with. They hunger for truth about God and doctrine they
can cling to.

So, perhaps your 'Traditional service' is like a funeral because it is like
a funeral. Of course being in your 50s and 60s isn't as bad as I'm
portraying it -- there are bright sides too. But I'm trying to show why
group may be 'dead' in your service. It is like a funeral because it is what
they have experienced. Those attending it are far nearer their own funeral
than the younger folk in the contemporary service? Maybe that is why your
peppy songs and band don't work at bringing an ecstatic response -- after all a
peppy song and a band at a funeral might even be out of place?

So, here is the question for you to think about:

Does the gospel I preach have anything to say to people like this?


[Me: One shortcoming of this article is it doesn't reflect the reality in the Catholic world today. Dissent - heresy, apostasy - is an old person's game there. The kids are leading the way in the restoration (conservative and even traditionalist) movement.]

From Step aside, Vatican II generation - the restoration is under way

Liberal Christianity is self-limiting - it puts itself out of business as people realize straight-up secularism is more honest. Most kids are secular but the religious ones tend not to be liberal religiously.

Divine Liturgy of Syrian Church

From blog reader Samer al-Batal:
Catholic Social Teaching and Economic Law: An Unresolved Tension
by Thomas Woods
36-page paper in PDF (Acrobat) format on the site.

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